Player power: Messi turns heat on Abidal over criticism of not working hard

February 6 – Lionel Messi has criticised Barcelona sporting director Eric Abidal over an interview in which the Frenchman criticised Barcelona players for not working hard.

Following Messi’s comments, the club convened an emergency meeting between Abidal and Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu. While the former French international Abidal is to continue in his role, the spat is another chapter in what has been a tempestuous season at FC Barcelona.

Abidal, who has been with the club since 2015, said:  “Many players weren’t satisfied or working hard and there was also an internal communication problem. The relationship between the coach and the dressing room has always been good but there are things as an ex-player that I could smell. I told the club what I thought and we reached a decision [on Valverde.”

Valverde was dismissed, despite Barcelona topping the Spanish league. However, Abidal’s words incensed Messi enough for him to respond on social media to his former teammate’s remarks. “When you talk about players, you have to give names because if not, it gives air to things which are not true,” said Messi.

“The players [are responsible] for what happens on the pitch and we are the first to admit when we haven’t been good. The heads of the sports department have to take their responsibilities too and above all own the decisions they make.”

The bust-up sparked an internal crisis at the Catalan giants, with local newspapers calling the club ‘Chaos FC’.

Tonight Barcelona face Athletic Bilbao in a Copa del Rey quarterfinal clash before heading to Seville to take on Valverde successor Quique Setien’s old employers Real Betis at the weekend.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1632682999labto1632682999ofdlr1632682999owedi1632682999sni@o1632682999fni1632682999